Low-dose CT scan offers non-invasive way to screen for lung cancer

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of men and women in the United States, responsible for 160,000 deaths each year. Until recently, there has been no reliable way to detect lung cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage. New studies have shown, however, that a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan can lower the risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent in people who are at high risk.

Low-dose CT is a painless, non-invasive scan, which:

  • Takes about 20 seconds
  • Does not require blood work
  • Does not require IV
  • Is covered by most insurance plans

During the screening, you will change into a patient gown and lie flat on the scanning table. You will be asked to hold your breath during the scan to limit the motion of your lungs while the radiologist takes numerous X-ray images of your lungs from different angles.

Are you a candidate for lung cancer screening?

You are a candidate for a low-dose CT lung cancer screening if you are asymptomatic (have no related symptoms) and meet each of the following qualifications, depending on which group you are in:

You have Medicare and Medicaid insurance and you:

  • Are between 55 and 77 years of age
  • Smoked at least one pack per day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years
  • Are a current smoker or have quit smoking within the last 15 years
  • Have been smoke-free for 15 years and have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer
  • Have completed a shared-decision making/smoking cessation counseling session before being referred for first screening exam
  • Have a written order from your physician or qualified non-physician practitioner

You have another insurance plan and you:

  • Are between 55 and 80 years of age
  • Smoked at least one pack per day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years
  • Are an active smoker or you have quit within the past 15 years


  • Are between 50 and 80 years of age
  • Smoked at least one pack per day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years
  • Have one additional risk factor such as:
    • Family history of lung cancer or personal history of cancer other than lung cancer
    • History of chronic lung disease
    • Radon exposure
    • Occupational exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing agents)

Talking to your doctor about lung cancer screening

A physician’s prescription is required for a lung cancer screening so you will first need to discuss with your doctor your interest in getting screened. Once you have a prescription in hand, you can schedule a screening. At Main Line Health we offer numerous lung cancer screening locations throughout the region.

In many cases, lung cancer screening is covered by insurance. There may be a fee, however, depending on which insurance you have. To determine whether a fee would apply, you will need to contact your insurance company in advance to see if lung cancer screening is covered by your plan.

Once you have your prescription for lung cancer screening, call 484.565.LUNG (484.565.5864) to speak to a lung health navigator who will ask you additional questions and schedule a screening for you.

When to expect results and what they mean

A board-certified radiologist will interpret your low-dose CT scan and provide results within 24 hours of the screening. Your results will be sent to your ordering physician for follow-up care.

“Negative” results mean there are no abnormal findings. Based on these results, you will be encouraged to repeat this test once a year for two more years. A “positive” or suspicious result means that there is an abnormal finding; further diagnostic testing may be required. Your lung health navigator will follow up with you and connect you with your ordering physician for further explanation and guidance.

To schedule your screening call 484.565.LUNG (484.565.5864).